The revolution moved me with an absolute force that takes hold of personality, of an individual human, of his being, surging through the borders of imagination and bursting into the most intimate world of images, which themselves become part of the revolution…
A significant day for Yasnaya Polyana. Bearing red flags and badges, workers from the iron foundry arrived from Kosaya Gora to pay their respects to Tolstoy’s house and window. Armed with Lev Nikolayevich’s portrait, they braved the deep snow and biting wind to visit his grave, with my two Tatyanas following suit. The workers sang songs and made speeches about freedom. In response, I made a brief speech of my own on the subject of L.N’s legacy. They sang “Eternal Memory” and took graveside photographs.
Diagilev went to Rome where the "Russian ballet" season is set to begin. He asked me to come and conduct The Firebird and Fireworks, for which he hired the Italian futurist Balla to do a special kind of illustrative set with light effects. I went to Rome. See more
At the apartment Diagilev rented, I found the whole company gathered around a richly laid out table. There were Ansermet, Bakst, Picasso, whom I then met, Cocteau, Balla, Lord Berner, Massine and many others. The season opened at the Teatro Costanzi with a ceremonial performance for the Italian Red Cross. The February Revolution had just occurred in Russia. The tsar abdicated, and the Provisional Government now ran the country. Usually the Russian national anthem was performed before the Russian performance, but now it was really inappropriate to sing "God Save the Tsar.” An alternative was needed. Diagilev got the idea to open the play with a Russian folk song. He chose the famous Song of Volga Boatmen ("Hey, hey ho"). The orchestra was supposed to perform it, but they didn’t have the orchestration. Diagilev begged me to urgently compose it. I had to get right to work, and on the eve of the gala performance I sat at the piano all night long in Berners's apartment, orchestrating the song for the wind orchestra. I dictated the score to Ansermet chord by chord and the interval by interval, and he transcribed it.
The orchestral parts were quickly drawn up so that in the morning rehearsal of the evening program, I was able to hear my orchestration under Ansermet’s conduction. In the evening a solemn performance was staged started by the Italian national anthem and "Hey, hey-ho" instead of the Russian anthem. I directed The Firebird and Fireworks against Balla’s aforementioned illuminated set.
One newspaper critic has become so drunk with revolution that he has suggested to blow up the monument to Alexander III. Before he used to vilify young art in his newspaper.
Autocracy has bit the dust. It expired quietly, almost imperceptibly, without a fight, without clinging to life—it did not even try to resist death. Only the very old, thoroughly exhausted organisms, die this way; they are not sick, nothing special has happened to them, but the body is worn out, and they are not able to live anymore. The firewood has burnt, the fire has gone out. “He died of weakness,” the people say. See more
The funeral service for the dead has been performed. Survivors, Milyukov, Kerensky and Co., have begun the creation of a new, free Russia.
I would like to say what I think about Kerensky. He is an unprincipled man, who changes his convictions, does not think deeply and is extremely superficial. His empty, semi-hysterical speeches don't correspond with his inner disposition. I boldly declare that no one has done as much harm to Russia as Kerensky. He is two-faced and always flirts with all political movements. Having no will power, he patronises the Bolsheviks!
We must be on our way. Every minute is precious. But how do we get into Russia? The imperialist massacre has reached its apogee; chauvinistic passions rage with all their might. Here in Switzerland, we’re cut off from all the warring states. Vladimir Ilyich is concocting ever more unworkable plans. These include: getting to Russia by aeroplane (just a few missing pieces in this jigsaw: the aeroplane itself, the requisite funds, official permission to make the trip, etc.); getting there via Sweden on the passports of two deaf-mutes (alas, we don’t speak a word of Swedish); securing passage in exchange for the release of German POWs; getting there via London; and so on and so forth. See more
A series of émigré conferences (with the Mensheviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries, etc.) on how to implement the amnesty and facilitate a return to Russia for all those who wish to do so. Vladimir Ilyich neglects to attend these meetings himself, sending me in his stead; he does not pin great hopes on all this.
The Austrian people suffer greatly. There is a shortage of the most rudimentary supplies. There is no milk anymore. The children die like flies. Tuberculosis is eating at Germany and Austria. The cities are in a dire state. Poverty is even felt in how people are dressed—everything is patched and ragged. Citizens of Berlin and Leipzig are the worst off. Hungary does not suffer at all, thanks to its rich resources. The uneven distribution of food leads to envy and enmity among various provinces. The Holy Alliance of two nations of Austria-Hungary, which impressed the Allies during the first years of the war, no longer exists.
The Russian revolution cannot but affect the whole of Europe; it will stir up the peoples of Europe and cause their stagnant blood to circulate more quickly. But heaven forbid the example we set for European peoples from becoming one of anarchy and spontaneous decay.
General Alexeev asks us to assemble in the main hall of the Mogilev headquarters. Nicky wants to address his former general staff with a farewell speech. By 11 o'clock the hall is full: generals, staff and company officers, and people from the retinue. Nicky enters, calm, composed, with something akin to a smile on his lips. He thanks his general staff and asks everyone to continue their work "with the same assiduousness and self-sacrifice." See more
He asks everyone to forget feuds and to faithfully and truthfully serve Russia and to lead our army to victory. Then he says his farewell words in short, military phrases, avoiding passionate words. His modesty strongly impresses everyone present. We yell "hurrah" as we have never yelled in the last 23 years. Old generals are crying.
In one of the Foot Guards regiments people refused to remove the insignia of Nicholas II from their epaulets. For both regiments, I have instructed that those who did not wish to take the oath were allowed to not participate in the ceremony; those who wanted to leave the emperor’s insignia on their epaulets, received permission to do so.